Taking the brunt of last years budget deficit in Peoria, the Fire Department saw a $3 million cut, eight months later they are feeling the results.
On Monday the department was stretched so thin, they said they might not have been able to respond to another call without assistance from other departments.
After last year’s budget cuts the Peoria Fire Department currently has 15 machines. That’s spread between 11 engines which hold water, and 4 ladder trucks that don’t.
Chief Ed Olehy said they have recently been in a couple situations where they’ve only had one to two machines available.
“We were one call away from being out.” said Olehy
He said for a typical fire, 16 people are needed to battle the blaze, with 3 firefighters on each machine, that means 5 machines are necessary, a combination of trucks and engines.
“Depending on the size of the fire, depending what’s going on, that’s the basic model that we need. If it’s a big house or like an apartment that was burning yesterday maybe a McDonald’s that’s on fire, well than that number just goes up because we have more tasks we have to do, more rooms we have to search, so that just takes man power.” said Olehy
This is now a concern for the department especially after the loss of two machines because of budget cuts last year. A concern which became a reality on Monday when only two machines were available.
“When you have a situation like we had yesterday, we’ve actually had a couple of those recently, we really tax the city and that redundant system that we have built into it almost to its max.” said Olehy
He said if another fire had occurred, they would use their mutual aid system, neighboring departments, for assistance.
Olehy said we have not come to that point yet.
While they were approved to purchase body armor at Tuesday’s city council meeting, the chief said that you cannot compare the pricing because a machine costs around a million dollars between buying and staffing it, while the body armor is around $20,000.
“We really getting to a critical point where I think we’ve trimmed all the fat that we have and any cuts now would start putting big holes in the city some place.” said Olehy
The chief said he is proud of the men and women in his department for adjusting once the budget cuts came.
He said they’ve really stepped up to the plate, doing more with less.